Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today claimed the country’s economy slowed down due to “hasty” implementation of the GST soon after demonetisation by the NDA government and said he did not see “any immediate recovery in sight”. Addressing a public meeting organised by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) here, Singh lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led government’s policies and described the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes in November last year as “a great, historic blunder”.
He said the BJP government imposed fresh “hardships” on the people by “hastily” introducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July this year. “What is the net impact of demonetisation and hasty implementation of GST? It led to a slowdown of our economic growth,” he said. Singh said the GDP growth rate came down from 7.2 per cent in 2015-16 to 5.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2017- 18 and small industries and traders were badly hit.
“I don’t see any immediate recovery in sight,” the former prime minister, an accomplished economist, said. He said the GST was an idea which had the support of the Congress party “but we would have implemented it after due care and adequate preparation… Our aim was one country one tax structure.”
Referring to demonetisation, Singh said Modi had stated that this decision was meant to unearth blackmoney, curb terrorism and to check the flow of fake currency from Pakistan.
“But what have the people of India gained from this adventure except to be the recipient of fresh hardships. At least one hundred persons died standing in queues outside the banks,” he claimed.
The withdrawal of 86 per cent of currency imposed severe hardships on the farmers and small industries and traders. “Demonetisation turned out to be a great historic blunder,” he said.
The BJP-led government at the Centre which came to power with “tall promises failed in implementing” them, he charged. Singh said during the election campaign Modi had promised the people he would bring back all the black money hoarded overseas. “Now three-and-a-half years have passed and the people of India ask what has the Indian citizen gained from the BJP rule?”
Singh maintained that the prices of essential commodities were going up, unemployment was increasing and the promise to create one crore jobs every year had “proved to be a hollow one”.
He also condemned the move by “divisive forces” to hurt the country’s secular and democratic fabric.
“We cherish religious harmony, we never imposed restrictions on what food we eat or the dress we should wear. Unfortunately within a short period of three-and-a half years of the BJP rule, attempts are being made to hurt the secular and democratic fabric of our country,” he said. The Congress party would fight “resolutely these divisive forces”, he added.